Ghostly tales about England's Hampton Court Palace have been circulating for centuries, but the latest ghost story adds a technological twist from the age of smartphones. This time, it's about a picture purporting to show the "Grey Lady," the shade of a servant who is said to have nursed Queen Elizabeth I and died of smallpox in 1562. A dark, distorted figure popped up in a picture recently taken by a 12-year-old girl while she and a cousin were visiting the tourist-friendly palace. "Ghostbusted by the Grey Lady," The Sun, a British tabloid, declared.
Is it real? Sort of, says Joe Nickell, an investigator at Skeptical Inquirer who specializes in ghostly photography. "We think that this is consistent with a person in a period-style costume who has walked into the picture," he told NBC News. "I'm going to assume the girls didn't stage this."
Guides in period costumes are a common sight at Hampton Court. But what about the spooky distortion? Metabunk.org's Mick West says it looks like the weird effect that's created when someone walks through your line of sight while you're taking an iPhone panorama. On his website, he demonstrates the iPhone stitch glitch in entertaining detail.
Nickell said the case illustrates how ghost photos change with the times. Other examples include the wandering-fingertip effect and the wrist-strap effect. "The history of photography shows that as the nature of photography has changed, the ghosts have changed, too," he said.
— Alan Boyle